Misericordia University Names Brennan O’Donnell, Manhattan College President Emeritus, to its Board of Trustees

O’Donnell received an honorary degree from Misericordia in 2019 and both his mother and aunt are alumni of the northeastern Pennsylvania university.

odonnell-brennan-768.jpgBrennan O’Donnell, Ph.D., president emeritus and professor of English at Manhattan College, has been appointed as one of three new board of trustees members at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. 

O’Donnell was the College’s 19th president and served from 2009 to 2022. Last spring, he stepped down from the position after 13 years. During his tenure, O’Donnell oversaw significant infrastructure expansion projects including the opening of the Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins ‘62 Engineering and Science Center in 2021. He also helped maintain and grow the College’s reputation as a top destination for academic success, return on investment and for supporting military veterans. He received an honorary degree from Misericordia in 2019. 

“Having grown up in Northeastern Pennsylvania in a family with strong ties to Misericordia, I am honored to serve an institution that is so vital to the region,"  said O’Donnell. “I have always had a deep respect for the Mercy tradition and the mission of Misericordia. I am impressed with the quality of the academic programs and with the vision and commitment of President Myers, the Board, and the university's leadership. I look forward to the work ahead."   

O’Donnell came to Manhattan after five years of service as the dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham University. Before coming to New York, he spent 17 years at Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland), where he served as a professor of English and, from 1999-2004, director of the university-wide honors program. As a scholar and teacher, he has focused mainly on poetry, especially of the British Romantic period, and on religion and literature, particularly contemporary American Catholic writers. He has authored two books on the poetry of William Wordsworth and co-edited "The Work of Andre Dubus," a collection of essays published as a double issue of "Religion and the Arts." In 2014, he won the prestigious Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award, which recognizes scholars whose work has “made a lasting contribution to the art and science of versification.” 

A frequent contributor to national and international conversations about the current state and future of Catholic higher education, O’Donnell served from 1994–2000 as editor of the national magazine "Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education," and as a member of the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education from 1993–2000. He currently serves on the board of trustees of Lewis University. In addition, he has served on the board of directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and as a trustee of La Salle University, Philadelphia. While at Loyola, he was on the board of the Lilly Fellows Program, and of Collegium, a consortium of Catholic universities that strives to strengthen faculty understanding of and participation in the mission of Catholic higher education.

A native of Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley, O’Donnell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest distinction and honors in English at The Pennsylvania State University in 1981, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English and American literature and language. He is married to poet, writer, and scholar Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Ph.D., associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham. The couple has three sons (all educators) and four grandchildren. 

The O’Donnells have strong family ties to Misericordia. Both were awarded honorary doctorates from Misericordia in 2019. Brennan O’Donnell’s mother, Mary Brennan O'Donnell, was a 1939 graduate of College Misericordia. His aunt, Miriam Ruth Brennan, RSM, was a 1950 graduate of College Misericordia and a Sister of Mercy.

”The Misericordia University Board of Trustees is pleased to welcome our three new members," said Deborah Smith-Mileski, D.Ed., chair, Board of Trustees. "Their combined expertise in higher education, business development and finance are sure to add significant value to our board. I look forward to working with them to meet the challenges of modern higher education and to help Misericordia University continue to prosper."

In addition to O’Donnell, Misericordia appointed Mark Ailes, an accomplished biopharmaceutical executive, and David M. Payne Jr., a Misericordia alum and managing director of PNC Capital Markets LLC, as the two other board of trustees members. 

By David Koeppel